I’d second what others said in regards to working primarily on your grappling skills (specifically takedown defense) given your past striking experience. I’m sure a good boxing, kickboxing, or Muay Thai coach could still teach you things about striking, but given your past success in that arena I think it’s fair to say that you have much less to learn than you do about grappling and are more likely to be exploited in a MMA fight for that lack of grappling skill.
In regards to which would be better, a MMA gym or school specializing in a specific skill set/style, I think it’s important to take into consideration your goals for learning the art(s), your window of time to learn your craft, what is available to you in your area, and what your financial situation/budget allows for.
So in that light, here are some pros and cons (from my experience) in training at a good MMA school vs a good specialist school:
-you will develop all necessary skill sets at least to an adequate level and so shouldn’t have any glaring weaknesses in you game
-you will learn how to blend the skill sets together in a synergistic fashion
-your conditioning for MMA will generally be better all around than someone who only trains one discipline
-you won’t learn skills that don’t directly carry over to MMA
-you probably will take much longer (if you get there at all) to become world class at any one specific skill set/would probably lose to a specialist in their given discipline
-in many cases the level of knowledge and skill of the coach(s) are not at an elite level in all of the skill sets and this the level of instruction in a given discipline probably won’t be as high as it would be at a specialist school
-there will be less time spent on each discipline as compared to a specialist school and thus your schedule may not allow you sufficient time to train in all of the disciplines
-because MMA is still a relatively new sport and you have a lot of guys coming from specializations, there is still a lot of figuring out just what really works, how to most effectively blend stuff together, and how to best prepare/condition the fighters for the cage without them getting injured in the process
-since they focus entirely on one discipline there is generally a pretty high level of instruction in that discipline (again, assuming good school) and thus a good coach/coaches should be able to appropriate the skills taught to different fighters to allow them to make the most of their natural strengths while minimizing their natural weaknesses
-because only one discipline is trained you will generally have an overall higher degree of skill in that one discipline than a MMA school that spreads it’s time/energy across other disciplines
-because only one discipline is trained there is a better chance that you can find times to train that discipline in your schedule
-since most of the specialty disciplines have been around for a while as is (with a few exceptions like the recent rule changes in Judo) coaches/athletes have for the most part figured out what works as far as producing quality skilled fighters within that discipline
-time limitations; if you are able to start at 5 years old and get to a truly world class level in a given discipline and then eventually cross train and round out your game, you will probably be a force to be reckoned with, but if you are starting as an adult and need to get as good at everything as quickly as possible in just a few years, then this may not be the best route for you
-lack of understanding about the specificity of MMA and the adjustments in technique and strategy that need to be made to the individual disciplines (boxing, Muay Thai, Wrestling, Judo, BJJ, etc…) that make up MMA when all of them are in play
-tendency to develop “tactical tunnel vision”/to become too focused on using one discipline/arsenal regardless of the appropriateness of that discipline/arsenal
-only developing conditioning specific to the given discipline/specialization
In many cases the best route would be to train at a MMA gym for the development of synergizing the disciplines, developing conditioning in all aspects of MMA, learning MMA strategy and how to adjust the skills accordingly to that specific arena of application, and to become as well a rounded as possible; while at the same time also training with specialists in the areas where you are weakest to bring up those aspects as quickly as possible. Whether that is financially feasible or possible from a time availability standpoint is the real issue there.
Hopefully this helps. Good luck
Thanks for the in depth reply
Yea looks like the plan will be an mma gym that has some good ground work classes and then go to the schools judo club to further improve and get practice